Digest Week 8 Michaelmas Term 2023

MT23, Week 8 (26th November - 2nd December)

If you have entries for the weekly Digest, please send information to admin@philosophy.ox.ac.uk by midday, Wednesday the week before the event. 

Notices - other Philosophy events, including those taking place elsewhere in the university and beyond


Hegel Reading Group

We shall be meeting Wednesdays 6-7.30 pm on Skype; please email louise.braddock@philosophy.ox.ac.uk or susanne.herrmann-sinai@philosophy.ox.ac.uk for the Skype link. This term we are reading texts by other authors discussing passages and problems of Hegel’s Anthropology, in the ‘Philosophy of Mind’ (translation is by Wallace and Miller) but we will work from the Michael Inwood revision (OUP 2007). Texts are shared via dropbox link and to be read in advance. Updates are posted on hegelinoxford.wordpress.com.


Asian Philosophies Group

A group for those interested in Asian philosophies, from any department, to come together from across disciplines to discuss Asian philosophies! Email alice.winham@lmh.ox.ac.uk to join the mailing list and WhatsApp group.

Senior Seminar in Indian Religions

Professor John Nemec: On the effects of causes and causes that could have an effect: The Śaiva theory of the eternality of what is produced

Jacob Mortimer: The canonical roots of Buddhist phenomenalism

Taking place on Wednesday 29 November at 4:30pm, OCHS Library with nibbles and tea provided afterwards.



Can there be Buddhist physicalism?

'Confronting the Obstacles to a Buddhist Physicalism'

Mark Siderits Professor of Philosophy emeritus (Seoul National University)

14.00-15.30 on Thursday 30 November 2023

All lectures will take place in the Old Library, Lady Margaret Hall.

While some claim that the Buddhism is one of the few religious traditions that could be ‘naturalized’ or made consistent with the findings of the natural sciences, others dismiss this claim as the result of a variety of confusions about the Buddhist tradition. One frequently cited roadblock is that naturalizing Buddhism would require adopting a physicalist metaphysics, something allegedly incompatible with key elements of Buddhist thought and practice. I explore several of the purported obstacles and examine what might be lost, and perhaps gained, by trying to develop a physicalist Buddhism.

For any questions please contact jan.westerhoff@lmh.ox.ac.uk.


Public Lecture

'Rethinking moral decision-making: Navigating the Trolley Problem in Virtual Reality'

Speaker: Dr Kathryn Francis (Keele University)

Date/Time: Thursday 30 November between 10:30 – 11:45am

Venue: This in-person lecture will take place in the Lecture Theatre, Oxford Martin School, 34 Broad St, Oxford OX1 3BD.

Abstract: Moral decision-making is traditionally assessed using text-based vignettes derived from philosophy, enabling systematic comparisons of moral principles. However, these scenarios are often contextually impoverished and fail to elicit the emotional reactions that might occur in real-life counterparts of the same moral conflict. To address this limitation, we have used Virtual Reality (VR) and Haptic VR technologies to recreate these dilemmas, finding a striking contrast between moral judgments in text-based scenarios and moral actions in VR scenarios. In this talk, I explore the implications of this work for models of moral decision-making and I reflect on the transformative potential of VR in moral psychology research.

Book your place here. Please attend in-person if you can. For anyone not in Oxford, please request the Zoom link from Rachel.gaminiratne@philosophy.ox.ac.uk well in advance.



Can there be Buddhist physicalism?

'The Problem of Ownerless Consciousness'

Mark Siderits Professor of Philosophy emeritus (Seoul National University)

10.30-12.00 on Friday 1 December 2023

All lectures will take place in the Old Library, Lady Margaret Hall.

One reason classical Buddhist philosophers rejected physicalism is that it would mean that consciousness is not strictly speaking real. A difficulty for those philosophers, though, is that it is not clear what an ultimately real consciousness might be like if, as all Buddhists claim, there is no such thing as a self or subject of consciousness. I examine this difficulty as a possible source of support for a Buddhist physicalism.

For any questions please contact jan.westerhoff@lmh.ox.ac.uk.


Can there be Buddhist physicalism?

'A Buddhist Physicalist Dissolution of the ‘Hard Problem’?'

Mark Siderits Professor of Philosophy emeritus (Seoul National University)

14.00-15.30 on Friday 1 December 2023

All lectures will take place in the Old Library, Lady Margaret Hall.

Physicalists claim that all the facts about the mind and its states can in principle be explained in purely physical (including neurophysiological) terms. The alleged difficulty known as the hard problem is that it seems one could know all the purely physical facts and still not know what it is like to have the experience of seeing blue. Buddhist physicalists would respond by claiming that the conscious mental state of seeing blue is no more than a useful fiction. What would such a response look like, and could it succeed?

For any questions please contact jan.westerhoff@lmh.ox.ac.uk.


Practical Ethics and Law Lecture

'How Nudging Upsets Autonomy' by Professor David Enoch (Professor of the Philosophy of Law, University of Oxford)

Date/Time: Friday 1 December between 15:00 – 16:30

Venue for in-person attendance only: The lecture will take place in Suite 1, Oxford Uehiro Centre, Littlegate House, 16-17 St Ebbe’s Street, Oxford OX1 1PT (buzzer 1).

Abstract: Everyone suspects – perhaps knows, but at least suspects – that nudging offends against the nudged’s autonomy. But it has proved rather difficult to say why. In this paper I offer a new diagnosis of the tension between even the best cases of nudging and the value of autonomy. If true, this diagnosis improves our understanding of nudging, of course, but it also improves our understanding of the value of autonomy. Relying on the distinction between autonomy as sovereignty and autonomy as non-alienation, I show that nudging need not offend against either. But it does sever the tie between them, the possibility of achieving non-alienation *in virtue* of having sovereignty. Analogies to common themes in virtue epistemology help to establish this point.

Respondent: Professor Tom Douglas (Professor of Applied Philosophy, University of Oxford)

Booking: not required.


Taunton Talk 

'Where Psychology Meets Ethics: How Modern Science Can Help Understand Virtue'

Speaker: Rev Dr Andrew Pinsent

Time/Date: Saturday 2nd December 2023 at 12noon

Venue: Grandpont House.

The Reverend Dr Andrew Pinsent is the Research Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion at the Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford. Formerly a particle physicist on the DELPHI experiment at CERN, Dr Pinsent has degrees in philosophy and theology and a second doctorate in philosophy. A major theme of his research is second-person (I–you) relatedness in science, philosophy, and theology. Besides many publications in particle physics, his publications in theology include work in virtue ethics, neurotheology, science and religion, the philosophy of the person, insight, divine action, and the nature of evil.

The Taunton talks, convened by Dr Paul Shrimpton, are intended to appeal to students who wish to engage in serious thinking beyond the confines of the tutorial and are motivated by the pursuit of truth.

They touch on pressing topics of the day as well as on perennial questions about the world and how to lead the good life, providing a forum for robust discussion in an informal setting where these topics can be dealt with honestly and deeply. The talks are aimed at bringing together undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Oxford to foster an atmosphere of open discussion and interdisciplinary learning.

The timetable is as follows:

12:00 - Talk starts

12:45 - Discussion

13:30 - Optional buffet lunch

The buffet lunch costs £5, and the number of lunch guests is restricted to 12; please contact Alex Norris at alexander.norris@sjc.ox.ac.uk to be added to the mailing list and to book a place at lunch. The address is Grandpont House, Abingdon Road, Oxford OX1 4LD. 

It may be of special interest to any undergraduate or postgraduate students studying philosophy or psychology, though all are welcome.